The music of the future? Smart technology as a monitor of the mind

The music of the future? Smart technology as a monitor of the mind

With all the developments taking place in e-health for both consumers and healthcare providers, people as a whole are becoming more and more ‘measurable’. The physical functions of the body can increasingly be mapped via apps and computer programs. The spiritual part is much harder to overlook, but the necessary technology is now also being used. Could we then perhaps use smartwatches purposefully to determine when we are being mentally overloaded and to what extent we really want it?

In a Article by The time recently looked forward to a future where e-health is also used in psychiatry as a measuring instrument to keep track of when and how often a client experiences stress in his life, e.g. At present, the possibilities for such practical applications are still limited, but it is expected that it will be possible to measure mental health better with equipment. The article examines the question of what we can – and want – to use such technologies for.

“We all have a unique digital footprint,” says clinical psychologist and researcher Tom Van Daele. “Many of us use the same apps, but there is great variation in how we use them: how much and at what time of day. Most of them have a pattern. From a preventative point of view, deviations can be enlightening. A sudden increase in social media roll time or a drop in physical activity could be a signal that we would miss something without data. “

New developments

“The current generation of smartwatches is capable of more and more. In the beginning, they only talked steps. Now more and more sensors are being added, such as those for pulse, ”he explains. “Stress is hard to distract from such a bracelet, especially in everyday life. A wearable looks at heart rate and skin conductivity, but basically does not measure stress. It measures activation, the fact that you are busy, that something physical is happening. ” But with this, such a smart watch can not distinguish between a reaction from the body to positive or pleasant events and to unwanted events. Still, it can benefit healthcare providers. Van Daele: “They can be a useful addition to what we do in therapy today: relying solely on self-report, on what people say.”

A combination of physiological measurements and conversations, in other words to gain even better insight into what is happening inside the client’s head and body (even when he is outside the consultation room). In the long run, smartwatches or other smart tools can also better provide preventative warnings if it goes the wrong way and too much stress is measured. However, a number of steps still need to be taken before it can be used effectively in this way.


“It’s important not only to make hardware, but also to develop ever better artificial intelligence,” says Chris van Hoof from Leuven’s research center imec. “Everyone is different, so basically everyone needs a different learning algorithm to make legitimate statements about health status. What is a normal pattern in this person, when does it start to differ? Using these models, we can also filter movement from the data. , for example, to eliminate the confusion between stress and physical activity. “

Just signaling stress is not enough. Van Hoof: “More important than determining stress is figuring out which triggers are causing stress or psychological discomfort and thus making the personal digital model smarter.” Stephan Claes, depression specialist and head of adult psychiatry at UPC KU Leuven, also hopes in the long term to be able to use such technologies for prevention and treatment. “We hope to substantiate the predictive value of the research. My dream is to be able to open my laptop during a consultation within ten years and consult the patient’s stress data for me, and combine it with what he tells me. It can make decisions to prescribe medicine easier. “

It may be quite normal in the future to monitor stress in the workplace in this way, for example, so that employers can intervene more quickly to prevent burnout. At the same time, it is doubtful whether employees want their physical and mental condition monitored so closely. In any case, the technologies need to be further developed for the time being before we have to think seriously about this.

Read here the whole article on the website The time

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